$500 Million 401k Plan Finds New Advisor Through RFP Process. Sending retirement plan business out to bid is a must for plan sponsors. It’s a way for sponsors to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities and ensure their plan and providers are in compliance, and that they’re still meeting the needs of the plan and participants. Most sponsors conduct a request for proposal (RFP) every three to five years, usually as part of a routine due diligence review or benchmarking exercise. However, the RFP process can be tedious, requiring a hefty investment of time and precious internal staffing resources from a variety of departments, including HR/benefits, procurement, and finance.
Texas-based biometrics company NEC Corporation of America recently found an easier way to conduct an RFP—without a huge investment of time or staff. They decided to undertake an advisor RFP, despite the fact that they had worked with the same plan advisor for 16 years, with no service issues. “Our committee decided it was time to do some due diligence and make sure we were fulfilling our fiduciary duties,” said Linda Fonteneaux, NEC’s Benefits Manager, Total Rewards, HR.
NEC Corporation of America is a subsidiary of NEC Japan, which focuses on technology solutions for business, government, public institutions and other organizations. There are about 1,300 U.S. employees who are eligible to participate in the company’s retirement plan, which has a little under $500 million in assets and 2,500 participants worldwide, according to Ms. Fonteneaux.
Initially, Ms. Fonteneaux and her team were planning for a long, arduous RFP process. They expected to devote numerous staff hours and resources and were seeking contractors to help them manage the RFP. A business acquaintance recommended InHub, a dedicated RFP management platform provider. Founded in 2014, InHub provides an easier way for organizations to conduct investment consultant RFPs. Their clients include well-known names such as Hulu, Stanford University, CUNA, Goodwill, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and more.
“InHub filled a really big gap for us,” Ms. Fonteneaux said. “They met our needs and were just what we were looking for. Moreover, we were able to keep the RFP process moving along smoothly while our teams in each department focused on their core objectives.” In other words, InHub helped save valuable time for NEC’s staff and allowed them to focus on their day-to-day responsibilities while effectively and successfully overseeing the RFP process.
“We were able to be good partners, providing vendors with timely and thorough feedback on their questions,” Ms. Fonteneaux explained. “At the same time, we were able to make sure there was a good potential partnership, and that a vendor’s service model fit NEC’s needs.”
In addition, the staff’s ability to access information via the InHub platform was invaluable. For example, Ms. Fonteneaux was able to provide NEC’s retirement plan committee with regular updates on the RFP process, including which vendors had submitted questions and which NEC had responded to, which vendors had responded to the RFP, and which ones had completed it on time. All of the data they needed was there, right at their fingertips.
To their surprise, Ms. Fonteneaux said, NEC ended up switching plan advisors. “It wasn’t an easy decision, and it was very close,” she noted. “The committee was very thoughtful in its decision. We used some really clear metrics to help us differentiate between vendors, and it came down to one that struck a chord with our organization and how they delivered their services, and how their service model fit our needs.” The vendor’s technology, as well as the type of clients they serve — many of which are similar to NEC — were also deciding factors for the committee.
As for InHub, Fonteneaux believes the platform was the right partner for her organization and team. “It was worth it [to work with InHub]. It made sense for us, and it was a better use of our time,” she said. “InHub gets the things that are rote with RFPs and allows you to put them into a tool and let that go. And again, you can focus on what you’re looking for in a service provider and not take away the time you need to do other things.”
RFPs can absorb a tremendous among of time, staff and resources. However, technology is making that easier, and InHub is one solution that helps take the “pain” out of the RFP process. You can learn more about InHub at www.theinhub.com.